Imprisoned Kurdish journalist says in letter there is no such thing as press freedom in Turkey

Aziz Oruç, one of 16 Kurdish journalists who were arrested in June, said in a letter there was no such thing as freedom of the press in Turkey and that journalists were under increasing pressure.

In the letter, which was published by the Bianet news website, Oruç said the most important problem in the country was the suppression of freedom of expression. “Without the protection of our freedoms and rights, there is no way the economy can improve. There is no way the government or the opposition can develop permanent solutions to social and economic problems without going to the root of the problems, which is that there is widespread political oppression,” he added.

Oruç and his colleagues are accused of membership in a terrorist organization. The journalists’ lawyer, Resul Temur, contacted the prosecutor to find out why they were detained and to see his clients. However, the prosecutor said the investigations were continuing and that he was reluctant to disclose the reason for the detentions. He only said the journalists were detained for their journalism activities and servicing news for foreign television stations.

According to Oruç these are trumped-up charges that aimed at stopping them from publishing articles critical of the government. He pointed out that there was a gag order on their case and that an indictment had still not been filed by the prosecutor.

He added that such pressure would not deter them from doing their job and writing the truth. “The truth cannot be silenced through intimidation tactics,” he said. “Journalists have paid a great price for freedom of the press, and they will not look back now. Our colleagues who are not in prison will continue our work, and those of us in prison will never be apologetic.”

The arrest of the 16 journalists sparked outrage among their colleagues and several international journalists’ associations. The German Journalists Association (DJV) issued a statement saying it was concerned about the harassment of critical journalists by the Turkish government and demanded that the authorities release the imprisoned journalists.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) bestowed this year’s Press Freedom Award on the 16 journalists. The TGC said it was giving the award to the Kurdish journalists under arrest and more broadly to all journalists in Turkey who are prevented from doing their jobs.

Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and was ranked 153rd among 180 countries in terms of press freedom in 2021, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Turkish journalists are often targeted and jailed for their journalistic activities.

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